A NEW strain of haemorrhagic virus is set to be released in South Gippsland in 2017 to control the rabbit population.
The new virus aims to boost the effectiveness of the current RHDV1 strain that was released in 1996.
It comes after rabbits, particularly in cooler, wet areas, like South Gippsland, developed immunity to the virus.
The new virus is set to be introduced and managed by farmers.
The aim is to maximise a population knockdown.
Recently farmers attended rabbit management workshops organised by local Landcare groups.
“The K5 strain will not kill every last rabbit in the environment but rather boost the impacts of biological control agents that are already in the environment,” WGCMA Regional Landcare Facilitator, Sam Shannon said.
“The release will be most effective if it is coordinated and supported with integrated rabbit management techniques, therefore land managers are encouraged to take advantage and follow up with conventional control to remove remnant rabbits and destroy their warrens.”
Rabbits are Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal, costing $200 million in lost agricultural production every year, with a further $6 million expended on rabbit control measures.
Rabbits also impact the environment, with less than one rabbit per hectare enough to stop the growth of some native species and negatively affect biodiversity.
At the Tarwin Lower workshop, participants learnt ways the virus could be spread, different control techniques, and follow-up measures.
Measuring the success of the virus is also to be monitored by farmers.
Participants learned that the best results are achieved where neighbours conduct simultaneous rabbit control across a landscape/district rather than on individual properties.
Landcare groups are willing to take a leading role in preparing an action plan for rabbit control.
Landowners are urged to contact their local Landcare groups to learn more.
For more information, call the South Gippsland Landcare Network on 5662 5759, or the Bass Coast Landcare Network on 5648 2335.
At the workshops in Tarwin Lower, Seaspray and Rhyll, landowners were given seven ways to best manage rabbit populations.
It is best to invest maximum resources into the first year.
1. Get together with your neighbours or local Landcare group to prepare and action plan
2. Conduct monitoring
3. Once RHDV1 K5 arrives in your area, start controlling remaining rabbits using multiple, integrated techniques (there are cost savings if you combine with neighbouring landholders)
4. Remove rabbit harbour/shelter, and destroy all warrens; this will help to reduce re-invasion and protect your investment (this will save time, money and effort in the long-term)
5. Follow up any remaining rabbits with fumigation, shooting, trapping, poison
6. Conduct monitoring and evaluate success
7. Continue monitoring on an ongoing basis – any sign of rabbit activity should trigger an immediate control response.